Photo by OSU Extension

Watch for ear rots this fall

By Matt Hutcheson, CCA, Soybean Lead/Field Agronomist, Seed Consultants, Inc.          `

As harvest begins across the eastern Corn Belt, corn growers should scout for ear rots in their fields. In the past few weeks while making yield estimates and walking corn fields, it has become apparent that ear rots may be present in fields this fall. Corn ear rots reduce corn yield, affect grain quality, and can lead to the development of mycotoxins in grain. Below are symptoms and toxin concerns for ear rots that may be present in corn fields this fall:

  • Fusarium ear rot: Symptoms include white to pink colored mold on kernels. This mold can infect small areas of kernels on the ear or be scattered in a random pattern across the ear. Fusarium ear rot sometimes occurs where insects have damaged kernels the ear. Fusarium ear rot produces mycotoxins which create a toxicity concern for both human and livestock consumption.
  • Gibberella ear rot: Symptoms include a pink mold that usually begins at the ear tip. Fusarium ear rot produces 2 toxins, including DON which is also referred to as vomitoxin. DON is toxic to livestock, especially hogs.
  • Diplodia ear rot: Symptoms include a thick white or gray colored mold that begins at the base of the corn ear.

It is critical for corn growers to scout fields and determine if ear rots are present. Infected fields should be harvested and dried early, then segregated from grain not affected by ear rots. Adjust combines so lighter, damaged kernels will be sorted out and left in the field. Drying grain to below 15% moisture will prevent further development of ear rots in storage.

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